music clip of the day


Category: classical

Saturday, November 28th

never enough

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); Vienna Philharmonic (Leonard Bernstein, cond.), live



reading table

Beethoven delayed writing a symphony until 1799–1800, when he was thirty years old and firmly established in Viennese circles as the successful composer of piano and chamber works. His first two symphonies, No. 1 in C Major, finished in 1800 and published as Opus 21 in 1801, and No. 2 in D Major, completed in 1802, were solid pieces in the traditional Viennese mold (though Lockwood makes a case for subtle innovations in No. 2). At that point Beethoven went through a severe personal crisis as he realized that his loss of hearing, first sensed around 1796 when he was twenty-five, was irreversible and would probably get worse. In an anguished letter to his brothers, the famous Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802 (named after the town outside Vienna where he was staying), he lamented his fate and admitted that he had considered ending his life. But art held him back, he wrote, making it impossible for him to leave the world until he had brought forth all that he felt within himself. The letter remained unsent and was discovered after his death.

The result of this self-reflection and resolve was Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major of 1804, in which Beethoven broke with classical tradition and created a work of unprecedented scale and complexity. Called “Eroica” (Heroic) and dedicated “To the Memory of a Great Man” (originally Napoleon, until he crowned himself emperor and fell from Beethoven’s favor), the work liberated the symphony from eighteenth-century conventions and drew listeners into an emotional realm of struggle, endurance, and triumph. From then onward Beethoven produced a series of highly individualistic symphonies, normally writing two together, one radical, one conservative. The tame Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major provided a balance to the “Eroica” in 1806. Then, in 1808, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor complemented Symphony No. 6 in F Major (“Pastoral”). In 1812, Symphony No. 7 in A Major appeared with Symphony No. 8 in F Major. Finally, after a hiatus of ten years and his descent into total deafness, came the monumental Symphony No. 9 in D Minor in 1824, the most radical of them all and the first symphonic work to incorporate solo voices and chorus.

—George B. Stauffer, New York Review of Books, 12/3/15 (reviewing Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision)

Wednesday, November 25th

Morton Feldman (1926-1987), Palais de Mari (1986); Aki Takahashi, piano

Today Feldman enters the MCOTD Hall of Fame, joining saxophonists Von Freeman and Henry Threadgill, trumpeter Lester Bowie, poets John Berryman and William Bronk and Wislawa Szymborska, photographer Helen Levitt, and gospel singer Dorothy Love Coates.

Tuesday, November 24th

More Sergio.

Sergio Fiorentino (1927-1998), live (master class), Italy (Bertinoro)



reading table

This morning I breakfasted sumptuously and with delight, but one ought not to utter statements like this so loudly in an era when delicate persons have the most indelicate heaps of cares piled upon their shoulders.

—Robert Walser (1878-1956), “Hodler’s Beech Forest,” translated from German by Susan Bernofsky (Looking at Pictures, 2015)

Monday, November 23rd

I never tire of these tiny, gemlike pieces.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), 24 Preludes (1835-1839); Sergio Fiorentino (1927-1998), piano, 1959



reading table

Awake at night—
the sound of the water jar
cracking in the cold.

—Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), translated from Japanese by Robert Hass


Thursday, November 19th

never enough

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin; Johnny Gandelsman, live, East Lansing, Michigan, 2015



musical thoughts



Why not both?

Wednesday, November 18th

More from the composer we heard Monday.

Georg Friedrich Haas (1953-), I Can’t Breathe (In Memoriam Eric Garner) (2014); Marco Blaauw (trumpet), live, Germany (Cologne), 2015



art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Two Towers (New York), 1907 (Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century, through 3/27/16)



Monday, November 16th

Sounds for a strange, scary, sad world.

Georg Friedrich Haas (1953-), String Quartet No. 8 (2014); JACK Quartet

Thursday, November 12th

Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Preludes, Book 1, Nos. 1-7, 9-11; Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), piano, live


I am not a complete idiot, but whether from weakness or laziness have no talent for thinking. I know only how to reflect: I am a mirror . . . Logic does not exist for me. I float on the waves of art and life and never really know how to distinguish what belongs to the one or the other or what is common to both. Life unfolds for me like a theatre presenting a sequence of somewhat unreal sentiments; while the things of art are real to me and go straight to my heart.

Sviatoslav Richter

Thursday, November 5th

never enough

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Twelve Little Preludes
Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993), piano



random sights

yesterday, Chicago (Lurie Garden)


Saturday, October 31st

Happy Halloween

Gyorgy Ligeti (1923-2006), Mysteries of the Macabre; Gothenburg Symphony with Barbara Hannigan (soprano, conductor), live, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2013



reading table

Wonder – is not precisely knowing
And not precisely knowing not –
A beautiful but bleak condition

—Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), #1347 (Franklin), excerpt


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